Fox Waterway Agency uprooted by record storm
Residents and business owners still trying to repair structures damaged by the April floods take heart — the Fox Waterway Agency feels your pain.
That's because the same flooding that damaged hundreds of homes throughout the region also left about two feet of water and black mold growing inside the agency headquarters at 45 S. Pistakee Road in Fox Lake.
The unsafe conditions forced more than a half-dozen staff members to move from their offices in the building to a cramped mobile trailer parked on the southern portion of the property.
And, just like many residents, the agency is working with federal officials in hopes of receiving emergency funds so the repairs can be made.
If you aren't familiar with the Fox Waterway, it is the agency responsible for dredging the muck and sand off the bottom of the Chain and Fox River to help — you guessed it — reduce flooding.
"The irony that we have been flooded out isn't lost on me," Executive Director Ron Barker said while touring the damaged building. "But, this shows that even an agency like the Fox Waterway isn't immune to flooding."
The 10-day flood was considered the worst on the Chain in 50 years, as water levels crested at nearly three feet over flood stage. Extensive flooding also was seen across portions of Cook, DuPage, McHenry and Kane counties.
Barker said a faulty sump pump led to water soaking everything inside the Fox Waterway building.
"Up until April, we were always able to remain dry because of sump pumps and heavy sandbagging," he said. "But, when that sump pump failed, it came up through the pump crock and flooded the building."
When the water subsided and employees opened the walls to dry out the building, they discovered dangerous black mold growing on insulation in the walls, Barker said.
"We shut down the building and moved everyone outside," he said. "The only thing we can do is gut the entire building to the studs and clean it out."
Barker said he is meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hopes of receiving money to offset the cost of repairs. No cost estimates have been determined for the work.
"All I can say at this point is the work will be extensive and expensive," he said. "We are hoping to start renovations in August, but we aren't sure at this time how long it will take."
FEMA spokeswoman Marquita Hynes said the federal disaster agency continues to work closely with Fox Waterway officials to assess the damage. She didn't say when money would be made available.
Since the flood, Fox Waterway employees have been forced to work in a two-office modular trailer parked on the property.
The conditions are small and less than pleasant.
"It's very cramped in here," said Kristine M. Pearson, project and permitting specialist for the agency. "There isn't enough room in here for customers when they need to fill out paperwork or for us to have files. The conditions are just cramped."
However, Barker stressed the work is getting done. Monthly board meetings have been moved to McHenry city hall, and the agency is still dredging a half dozen locations on the Chain and Fox River, he said.
In addition, people are still being served when applying for permits or obtaining boat stickers.
"When people call us, I just tell them that we feel their pain," Barker said. "It's not ideal, but the staff has pulled together to keep progress going through adverse conditions."
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